Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Napa Valley and Points North

I must be getting old. The chaos of San Francisco really exhausted me and frankly, got on my last nerve. These 90 degree afternoons probably didn't help my disposition. It was good to leave.

The plan was to drive into the Napa Valley for a couple of days. Wayne enjoys wine but isn't necessarily a fan of vineyard tours or tasting rooms so we're sure we even want to do tours. He visited the Robert Mondavi property many years ago and we've been to a few vineyards around the country but sometimes feel obligated to buy brands we don't really like. Sensitive to sulfites, I drink very little wine but do enjoy the fragrance that escapes when a new bottle is open... especially cabernet.

The ride on California Highway 29 into the Napa Valley was nice. Gradually seeing more and more vineyards and mountain ranges in the distance. The day is spectacular but the temperatures are still quite warm -- 85 degrees or so.

Beautiful scenes like the one in the picture below were repeated over and over as we drove into the valley.

The great stainless steel rabbit that appears to be leaping out of this vineyard is a fairly new piece of art. It was installed just last March. The guy who created Bunny Foo Foo has art displayed all over the world. It was impressive -- and huge!

Three ton Bunny Foo Foo at Hall Wine at St. Helena
 There were recognizable wine brand names on signs and buildings...

Merryvale Vineyards was the first winery built in Napa Valley after prohibition.

Traveling through Napa Valley (or anywhere for that matter) on a Friday, without a campground reservation, is insanity but we do it regularly.  Only one park in Napa can accommodate a rig our size. We called and of course, it was full. So we slowly drive along the highway in the big rig, finding the occasional space long enough to pull over for closer looks.

Along Highway 29 through Napa Valley

Our second choice destination is the Calistoga RV Park about 20 miles north. Our calls were not returned so we drove on to the park where we encountered low hanging branches that whacked the air conditioners, and everything else, on the roof of Endie. Aarrrg.

At Calistoga RV Park we found a long list of site numbers, names and dates posted on the office door of the unmanned office.  Someone emerged from a nearby camper to say no one is ever in the office.  I walked back to the coach, grabbed a pen, paper and calendar before returning to the tedious job of scouring the list for a possible site.  A half-hour was already invested in the futile effort when I realized all the 50 amp sites were taken and any site I might find would be 30 amp, which we won't do in this heat. Our addiction to electricity is too great for 30 amps. If there had been a site, it would have been $49 per night.  Aarrrg again.

We moved on... northward to Clearlake.

Highway 29 north from Calistoga to Middletown was a big rig drivers nightmare -- winding and narrow on a steep uphill grade. There had been no warning signs of the treacherous route until we were well beyond a point of turning back. The Rand McNally GPS didn't offer a warning either so we clenched our teeth and pressed on.

The scenery remained remarkable as we climbed to higher elevations.  Even on the steepest hills we could see more vineyards...

More vineyards.  Here, I'm looking back into the valley we've just passed. 

We are aimed for Konocti Vista Casino's campground in Lakeport, on the shore of Clearlake for the night. The temperature was still in the 90's. We can't escape the heat. And our run of bad luck wasn't over.

Next morning, continuing travel north on CA 29, we were stopped at our westward turn onto CA 20 toward the coast. Powerlines were down and the road would be closed for as much as 6 hours. The only detour would take hours and many miles. Aarrrg again.

We doubled back to Lakeport and found a place to pull over. One call and we're set to make an additional 30 mile detour back toward the southeast end of Clearlake where we've secured a lakeside site at Clearlake RV Resort. Oh what a place! Overpriced ($42.50) overgrown (12" weeds) and under-powered as our 50 amp site turned out to have but a meager 30 amps. Aarrrg again.

This would be the only picture I'd get of California's largest lake. The next morning we left the awful Resort at Clearlake and will likely never return to the area.  I took the picture through the bug splattered windshield. What a nightmare.

Somewhere along the northeast shore of Clearlake.
The route
We're headed to the coast in search of cooler weather.